Nigerian born singer-songwriter Inetimi Timaya Odon, better known as Timaya is a certified hitmaker. With over 15 years in the business, the acclaimed King of Afro-Soca has racked up numerous multi platinum singles and released 7 albums. His new album ‘Gratitude’ is filled with back to back bangers and certainly does not disappoint- bops galore, in true Timaya style.
F Word’s Gracey Mae sits down with multi-award-winning Timaya to discuss evolving, balancing fatherhood and the secrets of sustaining such a long successful career.
Gracey Mae: Papichulo. World Boss. Welcome to F Word. How are you today?
T: I'm great, great, great Gracey Mae. How are you today?
G.M: I am doing really well. Congratulations on your brand-new project: Gratitude. You’re giving us back-to-back bangers with no features. 15 tracks of goodness. Tell us about the project!
T: The project is good. It’s coming up so, so, so much better than I expected but I want more. It's something I really took my time to make. In my own space; not really trying to see life in anybody's eyes, just my own. It's all my own gratitude. That's it.
G.M: I love that! Tell me what you've got gratitude for right now in your life.
T: Being alive! It’s been a crazy year but I'm still here to take my gratitude and I like that, and to give my gratitude and I like that. So that's one joy I have.
G.M: On your Instagram, you've said “longevity depends on evolution”. How do you feel like you have evolved since hitting the scene, back in 2005?
T: It’s been a journey. You know, I left as that Plantain Boy to the man I am… to Papichulo. It's great though. It was really tough and really rough, you know, everyone thought it was impossible but I'm still doing music and I’m very relevant. Like, everything in my career has been so important. Now, I look prettier than before, my account is larger than before, I got beautiful kids right now, I got huge, like a huge fan base. I'm still rocking with this new school people. That's gratitude.
G.M: I love that you mentioned kids. To mark your daughter turning six months, you recently released a photo of her for the first time. Maya is beautiful. What's it like balancing fatherhood and being a musician?
T: Being a musician? I don't know how people see these things but you need to prioritise family in your life. The rest is fake. Fatherhood is my reality, you know, music is what I do. I can’t behave a certain [way] to my fans and behave a different kind of way to my kids. It’s just to spread love, and it’s all a part of you. It's a journey. You don't have to lie to nobody. So Fatherhood is… I don't know. It's just, it's an open thing. If you can’t be bad to the next man, you can’t be bad to your kids. Just show love. That's it. Basically, that's what fatherhood is to me.
G.M: Now you are an Afro-Soca, multi-award winning icon. You've had six studio albums and it's been an amazing 15 years for you. If one of your kids wanted to get into the music business, is it something that you would encourage them to do?
T: My father never wants me to be a musician. You know, he wanted me to be a banker but I fought my way through. I can't imagine myself sitting down counting… looking after someone's money. “Oh, yo! How much do I have? Make this transaction for me!” No. I prefer people do my money like that. I didn't like that. I wanted to be my own man. I didn't listen to my dad and I achieved this! I’ve been better and great in life so I don't have a reason to stop any of my kids or decide for any of my kids. They just have to prove to me and show the world that they can do what they’re talking about.
G.M: And what's the biggest lesson you've learned in your musical journey so far?
T: Never to underestimate anybody. Let it go.
G.M: Lots of truth in that. Now you mentioned Daddy! He was a banker, and you are the youngest of his 15 children. In the past you’ve mentioned that you actually ran away from home. Tell me what it was like growing up in in a polygamous family.
T: It wasn't really cool. You know when you’re in a way in a polygamous home, things are good if you’re from a wealthy home. As the last child, when things are good, you’re going to be the one to enjoy life. But in my kind of situation, if things that are not really cool, you won't really enjoy. Your older siblings are like “go and get this, go and get that”. They’ll be sending you on errands and you can't even say no. So it was not a good experience for me. I did not like being in that position. I didn't like it at all… at all. It was one of those… initially yeah! When things were rosy… but as things went bad, I now know that there is big different between yam chips and plantain chips [laughs]
G.M: [laughs] What can we say about 2020? Everybody is living in the middle of Corona Virus but in Nigeria, there is another epidemic taking place #EndSARS. As we close what has been a very tense year, our readers might be anxious or worried for the new year. What would your advice be to anyone feeling a little bit overwhelmed?
T: I just think right now, all we should do is just focus on trying to survive 2020 first. The year isn’t over. Once we’ve done, we can talk about any other thing. The focus should be surviving 2020.
G.M: And what would be your top tips on surviving the rest of the year?
T: Minding your business, alone time, isolation, do what makes you happy. You know when to say you should isolate, that is a point for reflection. You know what I mean? So right now, that's the only way to survive. Let's isolate, meditate, pray, have some alone time and get ready for 2021 That's it.
G.M: You’re right, next year is still in the balance. We don't really know what the situation is going to be but what can you tell us that you've got in the pipeline for 2021? What can we look forward to from you next year?
T: Gracey Mae, I won’t lie to you man. I can't tell you guys anything because we had a lot of things planned for 2020 and life just shocked us! [laughs] So there’s nothing to tell you. Y’understand? You should expect greatness though!
G.M: Greatness and gratitude. I love it. Let's go back to the beginning of your career. You joined a hip hop group as a backup vocalist for Eedris Abdulkareem. Tell me all about that period in your life and how you feel it prepared you to being the artist that you are today.
T: It was just experience… knowing how do things. Learning and making sure that yours can be different than the next person. You know… you get to know the ropes on how to do things, because already you’ve gotten an experience from this person. It was training; it was a lot of lessons but nothing really bad. It was greatness.
G.M: I’m sure you’ve passed on a lot of what you’ve learnt during that time through your label: DM Records. You’ve discovered amazing artists like Patoranking, Runtown and King Perry. What do you think is the secret for being able to sustain such a long career while building others up?
T: The secret is… I think discipline; knowing what you want. Because at the same time, those people you've mentioned, they give back to me too. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to rebrand myself continuously. You get to the point where you’re a boss but you can also know what's happening on the street. Most people come around you to give you information on what's going on, that makes you get better; it’s just for you to give back to them. So it's like you wash my hands and I wash your hands.
G.M: Let's fast forward back to 2020, the Gratitude project. What would you say is your favourite track on the album and why?
T: I don't really have a favourite track but I like Don Dada out of all the songs… I love all the songs, yeah! A lot of people see me alone all the time, and they will ask me “Why don’t you have friends? Don't you like to chill with people?” You know when a man has been burned a lot of times, he just likes to be by himself and enjoy his own space. Y’understand? So Don Dada is the story of my life, whereby I would invest in a lot of people before even trying to think about myself. Because I feel that if they win, I win but it got to a point whereby, I got burnt so I realised the best investment is in yourself so I got to live life differently. That's why Don Dada is my favourite track because it is a personal thing to me. It hits different.
G.M: Now as the King of Afro-Soca…
T: I’m not a king. God is the King. I’m just a man…
G.M: God is King of Kings. You sir, are the King of Afro-Soca.
T: I never said that. You guys gave me that…
G.M: It's okay! Take the crown, Sir. You've definitely earned it. You're an icon, okay.
G.M: So as the King of Afro-Soca, what do you say to people in the Caribbean who accuse artists like you of stealing their sound?
T: Well, they're not afraid. They’re happy people. They don't even think about it that. You know one thing about them? They know what they have so they can never be afraid. Their originality can never be afraid. They are the owners of that Caribbean sound. You understand? We're just getting a look in. The soca sound is native to the Jamaican sound so it’s a big sound. They can never be afraid. Jamaicans… Caribbean people… they’re not like that. They just want to be better. They want to be happy. Every time they’re jumping, happy… those people come to party from sunrise to sundown. How can you tell me these kind of people will be afraid of Africans – how? Africans care too much man. Those people don’t care. Those people are… ah ah! Can’t you see Rihanna. Nicki Minaj. How many of our African woman are like that? We’re afraid. We care too much. Just focus on the music. I'm not saying that they’re not great but the society has made us very close minded.
G.M: With over 280 million views on YouTube, over 2 million followers on Instagram, you’ve had successful tours across Africa, North America, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia… basically all the continents. You've just said that the Caribbean shows you so much love. Where's next? You're already a global star.
T: I'm just doing music generally. I'm not trying to connect to anyone… no plans to connect. I just want to reach out to my fans. We talk to humans generally not particular locations.
G.M: Humans to humans. Gotta love it. Gratitude is a defining project. You've got 15 songs and there are 49 minutes of greatness. On this project, you've told us to we were born to win so we should love; as we can't kill ourselves. We’ve got no limit so we have to be the Light with no gra gra! You've set the mood since you are the Don Dada. What is the one message that you'd like us to walk away with whilst listening to the project?
T: A lot of things. Be happy. Be yourself. Make sure you control and own your peace. Don’t worry about things of today, it will be better tomorrow.
G.M: Thank you so much for joining us. You've been an amazing guest! What is your favourite F word?